The LA Galaxy, based solely on performance, believe they ought to be 5-0-2 through the first two months of the Major League Soccer campaign, and it's difficult to argue with them.
That they aren't getting the results they deserve is an early-season trend they'd rather not be seeing.
The Galaxy thoroughly dominated Real Salt Lake in their opener but lost and have since employed a diamond midfield that has given them nearly instant command of their matches. But they've won only two of seven games, watching another should-be victory slip away Sunday afternoon in Oregon when Portland scored at the finish for a 1-1 draw.
“Our team played very well,” head coach Bruce Arena said afterward. “We had, I thought, a thoroughly dominating performance. [Portland] didn't create a whole lot during the game. ... It's a shame we didn't get the three points.”
Blame for that could be spread around. The Galaxy (2-2-3) certainly had chances to score -- they outshot the Timbers, 21-10, and forced four good saves from Donovan Ricketts -- but they've made a habit this season of wasting opportunities. They faltered at the finish, allowing Diego Valeri to score a 95th-minute equalizer, and that's happening too often, too, just like it did last year.
And perhaps they've got a case against referee Armando Villarreal and linesman Baboucarr Jallow, who let play continue after Juninho was spilled from behind on a long breakaway with a one-on-one chance to extend LA's lead to 2-0.
“We can stand here and just make excuses,” Keane said. “We shouldn't have conceded the goal, there's no question about that. In the last few seconds, you have to be stronger and not concede a goal.
“Some of the decisions today from the officials, certainly the ref and certainly the linesman on Juni's, he has to see that. There's no question, he's right in line with it. I would say it's more the linesman in that situation that the referee, because [Villarreal is] chasing the play like everybody else.
“So some poor decisions, but we have to accept and take responsibility ourselves, because the last minute of the game, we shouldn't be conceding a goal.”
The Galaxy have been their own worst enemies. They have been in charge of every league match except 1-1 draw in difficult conditions at Real Salt Lake on March 22, and they were still pretty convincing, debuting the diamond to shut down the Utahns' dynamic attack, very rare at Rio Tinto.
LA might have scored a half-dozen goals in the opener, including a Robbie Keane penalty kick, but RSL got the only goal in the 80th minute. They watched their advantage disappear on an 86th-minute goal in a 2-2 draw at Vancouver in mid-April. If Keane makes the penalty kick a two weekends ago, LA walks out of Denver with a point.
They've dropped five points already by conceding goals from the 80th minute on after last year's end-of-game collapses cost them 15 points and opportunities to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League and MLS playoffs.
“Listen, we fell asleep at the end of the game,” Arena acknowledged. “A bunch of guys can do better on the play, but we played very well today, should have walked away with three points.”
What “should have” happened doesn't mean a whole lot, and LA needs to start turning its domination into points. As Landon Donovan noted, “at the end of the day, this is a results business.”